Iran starts five-day military exercises

Revolutionary Guards, regular army and police conduct operation to evaluate nation's ability to defend against cruise missile attacks.

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TEHRAN // Iran began nationwide air war games yesterday across most of the country, aimed at boosting the armed forces' capabilities in defending the country's nuclear, industrial and other vital facilities.

Armed forces will test and evaluate systems for detecting, and defending against, cruise missile attacks as well as command systems and intelligent monitoring during the five-day operation, the Fars News Agency, said to be close to the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, reported yesterday.

Earlier this year, separate military exercises were held at Iran's key nuclear facility sites, including Fordo, Tehran, Natanz, Bushehr, Isfahan and the west of the country, Brigadier General Ahmad Miqani, commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbia Aircraft Base, said on Sunday.

The start of the war games coincides with Iran's confirmation it has accepted an offer by the European Union to meet on December 5 for talks on Iran's nuclear programme. No location or agenda have been announced for the meeting, which will involve a group of negotiators from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

While the EU has asked Iran to offer proof of the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insists that the planned talks can only revolve around general global security issues.

Israel and the US have not ruled out military action against Iran if it fails to convince the international community it is not building nuclear weapons, but Iran has consistently denied the allegations and says its nuclear programme is only aimed at power generation.

The war games that began yesterday involve the Revolutionary Guards and its militia arm, the regular army and the national police. Military and security forces are conducting the three-stage operation jointly to increase the integration of the country's military and security forces, Brig Gen Miqani said.

"This is the first time war games are carried out throughout the country with the participation of all defence forces," Amir Hamid Arjangi, the spokesman for the military exercises, told Fars News Agency yesterday.

During the three-stage manoeuvres, a domestically manufactured radar system with a range of 2,900 kilometres will be unveiled, Brig Gen Miqani said, without disclosing any details. The commander added military industries are manufacturing their own advanced anti-aircraft missile system after Russia refused to sell Iran one.

In September, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, cancelled a deal involving the sale of its S300 system to Iran on the grounds it would violate UN Security Council sanctions.

The ban on the sale of the missiles, delayed repeatedly by Russia since the deal was made in 2007, has angered many Iranian authorities and some legislators have even demanded that Russia be sued at the International Court of Justice in Hague. Earlier this month, Mr Ahmadinejad accused Russia of giving in to pressure from Iran's enemies to cancel the missile deal.

In a speech during a tour in Northern Khorasan province, the president said the deal should be respected, or the Iranian nation will demand compensation. He said Iran can defend itself without the need for "others' missiles".

The US and Israel were concerned that the advanced air defence missile system could be used by Iran to shield facilities suspected of conducting illegal nuclear activities.

But Iran says it will not be deterred by the deal's cancellation.

Brig Gen Mohammad Hassan Mansourian, a Revolutionary Guards commander, confirmed last week that the country is developing its own missile system, which is undergoing field modification and will soon be tested.